How to Use WordPress Recovery Mode – Complete Guide

Dealing with the WordPress White Screen of Death error? When it occurs, visitors see a blank screen instead of content. WordPress recovery mode can help fix it.

The recovery mode feature was introduced with WordPress 5.2. Since then, it has been helping website admins solving the WordPress white screen death error faster. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at this extremely helpful feature.

What is the WordPress recovery mode?

Simply put, WordPress recovery mode is the state of a WordPress site when the site is broken but offers special access to the admin. In this environment, a logged-in admin can access the site to find out and/or fix the origin of the white screen issue.

If WordPress detects any fatal error in your site, the front-end and/or back-end might be inaccessible. There could be just an error message on a white blank screen. In this situation, usual ways to access the WordPress site won’t be available. Even the wp-admin dashboard might not load. These are mainly caused by PHP issue(s). 

In such an event, WordPress informs the issue to the site admin via an admin email address. This address is set in the WordPress DashboardSettingsGeneralAdministration Email Address section.

WordPress General Settings

Here’s the gist of that email and blank screen notification from WordPress: There has been a critical error on your website. Fix it from the recovery mode.

The admin can access the WordPress site in “recovery mode” by following the link given inside that WordPress recovery mode email.

After the admin logs in using the emailed link, they will see more information about the issue on the dashboard. If the issue is caused by an incompatible theme or plugin, WordPress will reveal that. 

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wordpress dashboard in recovery mode

The admin can then deactivate that plugin/theme to bring the site online. Also, they can fix the issue so that using the plugin/theme can be continued.

Below are the most common reasons that trigger the WordPress White Screen of Death (WSoD) error. Consequently, the WordPress recovery mode comes into play.

  • If a theme or a plugin causes a major conflict
  • When your site reaches the PHP memory limit
  • If you make a mistake while editing the functions.php file

Please note, if you enter into the WordPress recovery mode, the site will temporarily “pause” the faulty code just for you. You’ll be able to access the site, on that device. But for the rest of the users, the site remains broken unless you fix/address the issue properly.

Let’s say that a plugin has some faulty code that has broken your site. Both the front-end and the back-end. The visitors will see the blank screen. If you enter into the recovery mode, WordPress will “pause” or stop that plugin only for you so that you can access the site. 

This will only work on your device (using a cookie). Then you can deactivate the plugin, and the site will be live for all other users. Or, if you can fix the code issue, the plugin can remain active and the site will be live.

How to access WordPress Recovery Mode

There are multiple ways to access the recovery mode. These are:

  • Clicking the link provided in the email
  • Adding a code to wp-config.php to get the email
  • Attaching an additional part to the site URL and browse

Using the emailed link: Visiting the link sent by email is the best way to open a WordPress site in recovery mode. Because this link contains a secret token that leads to the origin of the problem. 

So please check your site admin email inbox for instructions. The emailed link expires in 24 hours. But if the problem persists, you’ll get a new link.

Getting the email to another address: As we’ve mentioned earlier, the recovery mode link is sent to the admin email address stored in SettingsGeneralAdministration Email Address. If you don’t have access to that mailbox, still you can manage to get that email to a different address. 

For this, you need to have FTP access to your WordPress server.

Visit the WordPress root directory. Edit the wp-config.php file. Add the following code to it.

define( 'RECOVERY_MODE_EMAIL', '[email protected]' );

Replace [email protected] with your email address to set the recovery email. You’ll get the recovery mode email to this new email address along with the existing administrator email.

This method will be applicable for self-hosted sites only. There you can even deactivate all the plugins just by renaming the plugin directory. But for the managed WordPress sites, you may not get much access to the server.

However, for managed services like WordPress.com, you get an expert customer support team. For example, there are support forums for WordPress.com users. You can seek help at these forums for any issue. But again, if you want more customization freedom, you need to use the open-source WordPrss.org version.

Creating a recovery mode URL: Sometimes you may not get that email in the first place. Generally, it happens due to a lack of proper server configuration where your site is hosted. 

Luckily, you can access WordPress Recovery Mode without the email. You can create a WordPress recovery mode link and log in to the recovery mode. Just add some extra part to you site URL and visit. Here’s an example: yoursite.com/wp-login.php?action=entered_recovery_mode

yoursite.com should be replaced by your site address. When you visit that URL, you’ll get a login page.

log in to recovery mode

This page will indicate that it’s going to be the recovery mode. Log in with your admin credentials and access the recovery mode.

When trying to log in to the recovery mode, sometimes there happens an error. You may see that the WordPress recovery mode is not initialized. In this case, you need to see the server log and contact your hosting provider. Or, try to restore a server backup.

Explore: How to Install WordPress in cPanel [Video]

How to use WordPress Recovery Mode

Once you log in to WordPress Recovery Mode using any of the above-mentioned methods, you’ll see your site functional. As you already know, this is just for you. The site is still inaccessible to the other users. It’s live just for you on your current device. 

If you log in by following the emailed link, you’ll see the error notification on the dashboard. Simply address that issue, and your site will be live. It’s probably just deactivating a plugin or fixing an issue with a plugin/theme conflict. You’ll get details in your email as well. 

If you manually create the recovery mode URL and visit, you may not get the specific error details. In that case, follow the steps below. Every time try to visit the site in an incognito/private browser window where you’re not logged in.

  • Deactivate all your plugins: Start with deactivating all your plugins. Does it make the site live? If “yes”, then activate the plugins one by one. Thus, you’ll see which plugin is responsible for the fatal error. You can then proceed with that plugin’s support.
  • Switch to a default theme: Change your theme to the latest WordPress default theme. For example, it can be Twenty Twenty-One. Does it take your site to live?

If you have a backup, you can also restore that to roll back to a previously known good state. Once you solve the issue, you can exit the recovery mode by clicking the Exit Recovery Mode button to the top right. That’s it!

Wrapping up

In this post, we’ve discussed what is WordPress recovery mode, how to access it. Also, we’ve talked about how to use WordPress recovery mode. We hope you’ll find this post helpful. We appreciate your thoughts too! Please share your ideas in the comments!


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